Reviewed by Scott A. Johnson
Written by Nate Kenyon
Published by Five Star Press
342 pages, January 2006 release date
The sins of the father are often revisited on the son, and the same can be said for a small town in which too many secrets lie. Murder, possession, and mysterious forces drive the main characters in Nate Kenyon's debut novel, Bloodstone.
Bloodstone is a tale revolving around several main characters, the first of which, a recovering alcoholic named Billy Smith, and the prostitute he kidnapped, Angel, are drawn to the small town of White Falls by the dreams they share. Adding to the town's shrouded history is the tragic murder committed by the father of Jeb Taylor, who at nineteen is well on his way to taking up his father's work. The closer the town draws to its spring festival, the shorter tempers become, erupting in mayhem across the normally quiet city. And while everyone can agree that something is wrong, no one seems to know just what -- or how to stop it.
Kenyon stumbles in a few places, falling into several first-time novelist traps. The first half of the book is laden with passive voice passages, curious exposition, and large expanses where the author would have done better to show, rather than tell, the reader what was going on. In addition, large expository journal entries that detail how the land White Falls was built on was cursed long before the formation of the town come off more as a forced flow of information rather than a way to move the story along.
However, the good outweighs the bad in Kenyon's first effort. To begin with, he has a gift for imagery, painting vivid portraits without excessive attention to minutiae. His characterizations are spot-on, bringing the readers close to even the strangest of characters and allowing them to care about their acts. Also included are not just moments, but long sections that define Kenyon as a horror writer of promise. Once the reader gets to the meat of the matter, the novel sucks him in and refuses to let go, dragging him kicking and screaming into this tale of dark and hungry spirits.
While there are a few areas that could be improved, Kenyon's Bloodstone is a solid first novel by any standard. It is one part ghost story, one part spiritual journey, and one part Our Town rolled up into a neat package. Nate Kenyon is a writer to be watched.
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